The best parenting advice I've gotten lately was from a friend of mine who isn't a mom. I tell you that because, amazingly, it seems we're never tired of finding new ways of fighting the "mommy wars" and this latest iteration -- moms vs. non-moms -- is just totally nuts. The current Time magazine cover story explores all the ways women who choose not to have kids might be living it up, but says they're judged for that choice by us moms. And a New York Times column by KJ Dell'Antonia asks the followup question of whether or not parents can be friends with non-parents.
I understand where the question is coming from, but I have one very strong answer to it:
Of course we can! And not only CAN we, but we SHOULD!
Some of my women friends don't have kids yet, but they'd like to. And others probably never will, because they don't want to. Some of my 'child-free' friends were my friends before I had a baby, and some have become my friends since then. In fact, back when I had my daughter Isabella, NONE of my close friends had kids yet. My bestie Amy didn't have a baby until a good five years after Isabella was born, and nothing -- absolutely NOTHING -- changed about our friendship when only one of us was a mom.
I won't lie: It's definitely easier to MEET other moms, simply because so much of my free time revolves around my mommy activities, whether it's school or ballet or birthday parties. And when I was a brand new mom, living in a strange new state, with no close friends or family around, I actively sought out new mom groups and mommies to be friends with because I felt so alone and insecure. Some of those women I met 10 years ago have become my dearest friends, and our daughters are close friends too, so that also makes things easy in way.
But the two couples my husband and I hang out with the most these days both don't have any children. They're all great, warm people who welcome Isabella into just about any gathering, so that helps enormously, of course. And kid-free women I've met through work or other activities like my coaching for Girls on the Run have become invaluable sources of friendship and support to me -- as I hope I have for them (even though I tend to be flakier than them when it comes to getting together).
Here are a few of the reasons why I love my 'child-free' friends:
1. They give great advice.
Yep, that's right! People without children can give insightful, helpful, and supportive advice ... about parenting, no less. Just the other day after a really trying dinner out with my family, I sent a semi-hysterical email to a good friend of many years who lives on the west coast. "Isabella's turning into a teenager," I (virtually) sobbed. "She's being so rude and snotty to me! I can't believe it! I'm not ready for this!" My friend wrote back right away with some really helpful, insightful thoughts that totally made me feel better and helped me gain a little perspective on the situation. Is my friend a mom? No, but she was a tween herself once and has an empathetic and kind heart.
2. They remind me that my identity doesn't begin and end at "mom."
It's easy to get totally wrapped up in the world of parenting -- even my husband and I find ourselves talking about Isabella when we're supposed be out on a date night! But there's a lot more about me than the fact that I'm a mother, and when I'm out with a non-mommy girlfriend, it's easier to remember that, if only because we actually talk about things OTHER than kids.
3. They're great presences in my daughter's life.
I love carting Isabella around to spend time with my 'child-free' girlfriends, all of whom are living interesting, dynamic lives and will continue to do so whether or not they ever have children.
4. They're fun!
Not that my mom friends aren't fun (they are, as a whole, totally nuts and hilarious to hang out with), but my friends without kids are pretty much ALWAYS up for a night out, an impromptu cocktail party, a movie ... you name it. They're also the ones most likely to host an event where we HAVE to get a babysitter (THANK YOU!).
I love being a mom, and my heart really breaks for anyone who wants that but, for whatever reason, hasn't been able to achieve it. But that doesn't mean that I judge other women for not having kids, or think when I meet them that we automatically won't have enough in common to be friends.
Do you have women friends who don't have children?